You probably interact with HDMI cables every day, but have you ever paid attention to the technology behind these ubiquitous appliances in our households? And did you know that there are different types of HDMI cables? To find out about the nitty-gritty of HDMI cables, keep reading.
What are HDMI cables?
A while back, when you wanted to transfer audio and video between devices, you would use different cables to perform this function. But with the emergence of High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) technology, you no longer need multiple cables to sync audio and video across devices.
HDMI, widely used in commercial and home electronics, transmits high definition video and audio between devices over a single cable. Some of the devices that may utilize HDMI cables include:
TVs, PCs, laptops, and video projectors
DVD, Blu-ray, and Ultra HD players
Some digital cameras, smartphones, and camcorders
Are HDMI cables the same?
While the HDMI cables might look similar, they are more nuanced than that. There are several versions of HDMI cables tinged with differing bandwidths, qualities, and other features. Here are some types:
Standard HDMI cable: These cables have a bandwidth capacity limited to 5 Gbps and are optimized for HDMI versions 1.0 to 1.2a. These cables were designed to support some earlier consumer appliances and reliably transmits 1080i and 720p video. 1.0 version supports 8 audio channels while 1.2 version supports DVD-Audio and One-Bit Audio.
High-Speed HDMI cable: Optimized to support HDMI versions 1.3 to 1.4a; this type supports a bandwidth of up to 10 Gbps and is designed to handle advanced video display technologies like 4K@30Hz, 3D, and Deep Color content. This cable can handle video resolution of up to 1080p, making it for devices like Blu-ray Disc player.
Premium High-Speed HDMI Cable: This cable can reliably transmit 4K/UltraHD content, including 4K@60Hz, HDR, and expanded color range. Supporting a bandwidth of up to 18 Gbps, this cable is designed for HDMI versions 2.0a and 2.0b. These cables provide audio support of 32 audio channels, HE-AAC, and DRA.
The Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable: This is the mother of all HDMI cables. It bears all other cables’ capabilities with the added feature of supporting 8K content with HDR and even 10K resolution (gamers might be licking their lips). With the ability to support a bandwidth of up to 48 Gbps, this cable is optimized for the new kid on the block: the HDMI version 2.1, which even supports HDMI eARC (higher-resolution audio).
What's all the fuss about HDMI 2.1?
HDMI 2.1 is now available and found in a couple of the latest TV models ranging from Samsung, Sony, LG, and a few others. It’s also available on the next-generation game consoles- Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. However, to harness the power of these consoles, you need a TV that supports at least some HDMI 2.1 features.
At first sight, HDMI 2.1 doesn’t look any different from other cables. But when you get to know about its vast bandwidth, ability to support 10K content, and the tremendous benefits it has for gamers, then you know the HDMI 2.1 isn’t your ordinary cable.
The release of HDMI 2.1 was with 8K content (or more) in mind. While there are a handful of 8K TVs in the market, production of 8K content is virtually nonexistent. Your favorite Roku or Apple TV can only support 4K-and that’s it. Today, only a few sources (PS5 and the Xbox Series X) can churn out 4K output at a framerate of more than 60fps.
So, is that all about HDMI 2.1? Not at all. While the mind-boggling framerates and resolutions cause shockwaves in the market, there are other wealthy features inherent in the HDMI 2.1.
Other features of HDMI 2.1
The Dynamic HDR is indeed a feature of the HDMI 2.1 that you can’t ignore. Why? It’s a technology that enhances video quality by ensuring that every image is displayed at its optimal depth, color, contrast, and brightness, whether on a frame-by-frame or scene-by-scene basis.
If you have Dolby Atmos or DTS: X, the eARC audio feature in the HDMI 2.1 should interest you. Given its ability to support wider bandwidth and faster speed, you can now transmit high-quality audio from your TV to your soundbar or any other audio device.
What do I need to look out for when shopping for HDMI cables?
Given the many types of HDMI cables available, your head can spin when shopping for one. But if you choose to concentrate on the right stuff, your shopping experience will be nothing but a breeze. That said, keep your eyes peeled for the below pointers before committing to the purchase.
Specifications: Is it 4K content you want? Or perhaps you want to run the highest rate of 8K? Depending on the content you want to transmit, you have to purchase the cable that supports your audio and video quality.
Price: While you can opt for a pricey piece, it won’t necessarily out-do a decent quality affordable cable. For practicality, the AmazonBasics will just do fine. HDMI cables priced as low as $10 for 6 feet will give you incredible service.
Pro tip: The price of the HDMI cables isn’t always directly proportional to quality.
Length: Very crucial. Take some time to think about the distance between your devices. However, the rule of thumb is: the shorter, the better. Long cables not only deteriorate the signal quality but can look untidy, especially in a confined area.
Color: Well, this goes down to what color pleases your eyes. But most people will go for a color that is easily camouflaged among other appliances.
Since its inception 15 years ago, HDMI has undergone a tremendous transformation over the years. And this trend isn’t about to grind to a halt. With game consoles and TV brands churning out high-quality content every year, HDMIs will continue sitting pretty at the center of digital transformation. There are now wireless HDMI options available to transmit content cord-free for those looking to eliminate messy cables, or connect devices that require a long-range signal.
Even though users haven’t optimally harnessed the features of HDMI 2.1, it’s only a matter of time before we all jump into the HDMI 2.1 bandwagon and start longing for the next invention.